African Football - Al Ahli look to restore Egyptian honour

As Egyptians digest the 6-1 thrashing of their national side, top club Al Ahli have the responsibility of salvaging some honour at the weekend.

Reuters
African Football - Al Ahli look to restore Egyptian honour
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Fans of Al-Ahli (Reuters)

The impact of the demoralising defeat to Ghana in Tuesday's World Cup qualifier could have a major bearing on the Cairo club, who contributed 11 players to the 26-man national squad, as they try to win a place in the African Champions League final.

Al Ahli host Coton Sport of Cameroon in the second leg of their semi-final on Sunday, seeking to extend their dominance in the competition.

The team, and the internationals who went to Kumasi for the crushing defeat in the World Cup play-off, now have to pick up the pieces for a tricky tie in the Red Sea resort of El Gouna after the first leg ended 1-1 in Garoua two weeks ago.

They will play behind closed doors because of a ban on rowdy fans, will be without coach Mohamed Youssef, who has a touchline ban after a red card in the first leg, and are worried about the fitness of key players including goalkeeper Sherif Ekrami, who limped off with a knee injury in Ghana on Tuesday, and midfielder Hossa Ashour, also hurt in the game.

To add to the sense of unease, Ahli's top play Mohamed Aboutrika announced on Thursday that he would be retire at the end of the year.

The midfielder has been a talismanic presence for the Cairo giants who have dominated African club football over the last decade.

Captain Wael Gomaa, who scored an own goal in Ghana on Tuesday, attempted to rally the players and fans by saying in an interview with the club website: "The Al Ahli players are experienced enough to forget the match against Ghana."

If Ahli succeed on Sunday they will likely set up a repeat of last year's final against Esperance of Tunisia, who host Orlando Pirates of South Africa in their second leg on Saturday after a goalless draw in the first leg.

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